Summary: Wealth in our lives is measured in many ways. Pennies are a small measure of money, but Benjamin Franklin would have told you that a penny saved is a penny earned. Friends in our lives are another kind of wealth that we may not value highly enough. Wherev
People, like pennies
I watched a hidden camera show some time back. The director had taken two rolls of pennies and dropped them randomly but obviously along a half a city block. Then he filmed people’s reactions.
People noticed, but they did not stoop to pick up the pennies. Some looked around to see if they were being noticed but then walked on. Some stood and looked at the pennies for a moment to see if it was worth their effort. It wasn’t apparently.
Finally a boy that looked like he might have been 10 or 12 years old came along and pounced on them. He walked along the block picking up every penny he could find. After he collected them all, he turned right into a candy store.
Wealth in our lives is measured in many ways. Pennies are a small measure of money, but Benjamin Franklin would have told you that a penny saved is a penny earned.
Friends in our lives are another kind of wealth that we may not value highly enough, All friends. We may tend toward our Christian friends too much, if we are not occasionally pulling away from them to share the gospel with those who don’t know.
27After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ’sinners’?"
31Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Luke 5:27-32 (NIV)
Tax collectors in the NT
In NT times, anyone could become a tax collector. The Romans would make the job opening known, and people submitted bids of what they would pay to do the job. The Romans would buy someone’s bid and that person would collect taxes and pass them on to Rome. He would also levy a surcharge, and any extra he got was his. A citizen had no choice but to pay and was subject to punishment for refusing, because the tax collector was a representative of Caesar.
So, if a person charged too high a surcharge, he might be considered an extortioner, but the worse accusation was collusion with the Romans. People saw tax collectors as the enemy.
It was made even worse when it was one of their own. Levi, Matthew’s other name, is a very Jewish name. He would have been quite despised because people would have perceived him as a traitor. The Pharisees would have considered him unclean, because he was in constant contact with Gentiles.
To that culture, tax collectors were in the same class as prostitutes and thieves. They were not allowed in the synagogue. Luke says the banquet that Matthew held was full of tax collectors and "other people." The Pharisees insisted on referring to them as "sinners," but this was more an insult than a description.
It would be wrong of us to label Levi in such a shallow way. He was likely very educated, needing to deal with people in at least four languages. He also needed an ability to do advanced math. The fact that he wrote one of the gospels is an indicator of his education. Some early church leaders say the gospel was originally written in Hebrew and only later translated into Greek. He may have been a sinner, but he was a white collar sinner.
But there is no proof he was a "sinner" in the way that he was assumed to be since he was a tax collector.
• He hung out with tax collectors
• But he had been banned from the synagogue, who else was he going to hang with?
• He was in cahoots with the Romans
• He was in business, and may have even been an honest businessman for all anyone knows
How do people get "categorized?"
In the long run, we don’t know a lot of details about Matthew’s life. We may categorize him as a person of dishonest habits, but not according to the Scripture; only by the judgement of the Pharisees.
Take a moment and speak with the people around you. In small groups of 3 to 6, at least one person should try to recall a time when he or she, or someone they know was misjudged based on circumstances or appearance.
People are misjudged all the time:
• because of prejudice